Part 3 out of 4
"That's a good man, Tim Turner," said Mr. "Sherwood, heartily.
"He's worked for me, isn't afraid of anything, Ha! But that's
wrong!" he suddenly exclaimed.
Turner had failed to start the stranded log. Other logs were
hurtling down the foam-streaked river, aimed directly for the
stranded one. They would begin to pile up in a heap in a minute.
The foreman leaped to another log, turning as he did so to face
the shore. That was when Uncle Henry declared him wrong.
Turner was swinging his free arm, and above the roar of the river
and the thunder of the grinding and smashing logs they could hear
him shouting for somebody to bring him an axe. One of his men
leaped to obey. Nan and Mr. Sherwood did not notice just then
who this second man was who put himself in jeopardy, for both had
their gaze on the foreman and that which menaced him.
Shooting across on a slant was a huge log, all of three feet
through at the butt, and it was aimed for the timber on which
Turner stood. He did not see it. Smaller logs were already
piling against the timber he had left, and had he leaped back to
the stranded one he would have been comparatively safe.
Mr. Sherwood was quick to act in such an emergency as this; but
he was too far from the spot to give practical aid in saving
Turner from the result of his own heedlessness. He made a horn
of his two hands and shouted to the foreguard at the foot of the
"He's going into the water! Launch Fred Durgin's boat below the
bend! Get her! Quick, there!"
Old riverman that he was, Uncle Henry was pretty sure of what was
about to happen. The huge log came tearing on, butt first, a
wave of troubled water split by its on-rush. Turner was watching
the person bringing him the axe, and never once threw a glance
over his shoulder.
Suddenly Nan cried out and seized Uncle Henry's arm. "Look! Oh,
Uncle! It's Rafe!" she gasped, pointing.
"Aye, I know it," said her uncle, wonderfully cool, Nan thought,
and casting a single glance at the figure flying over the bucking
logs toward the endangered foreman. "He'll do what he can."
Nan could not take her eyes from her cousin after that. It
seemed to be a race between Rafe and the charging log, to see
which should first reach the foreman. Rafe, reckless and
harebrained as he was, flew over the logs as sure-footed as a
goat. Nan felt faint. Her cousin's peril seemed far greater to
her than that of the foreman.
A step might plunge Rafe into the foaming stream! When a log
rolled under him she cried out under her breath and clamped her
teeth down on to her lower lip until the blood almost came.
"He'll be killed! He'll be killed!" she kept repeating in her
own mind. But Uncle Henry stood like a rock and seemingly gave
no more attention to his son than he did to Turner, or to the men
running down the bank to seize upon and launch the heavy boat.
Rafe was suddenly balked and had to stop. Too great a stretch of
water separated him from the next floating log. Turner beckoned
him on. It was difficult to make the foreman hear above the
noise of the water and the continual grinding of the logs, but
Rafe yelled some warning and pointed toward the timber now almost
upon Turner's foothold.
The man shot a glance behind him. The butt of the driving log
rose suddenly into the air as though it would crush him.
Turner leaped to the far end of the log on which he stood. But
too great a distance separated him from the log on which Rafe had
secured a foothold.
Nan heard, on top of the bluff, the impact of the great timber as
it was flung by the current across the smaller log. Turner shot
into the air as though he were flung from a catapult. But he was
not flung in Rafe's direction, and the boy could not help him.
He plunged into the racing stream and disappeared. The huge
timber rode over the smaller log and buried it from sight. But
its tail swung around and the great log was headed straight down
the river again.
As its smaller end swung near, Rafe leaped for it and secured a
footing on the rolling, plunging log. How he kept his feet under
him Nan could not imagine. A bareback rider in a circus never
had such work as this. Rafe rode his wooden horse in masterly
There, ahead of him in the boiling flood, an arm and head
appeared. Turner came to the surface with his senses unimpaired
and he strove to clutch the nearest log. But the stick slipped
away from him.
Rafe ran forward on the plunging timber he now rode the huge
stick that had made all the trouble, and tried to reach the man
in the water. No use!
Of course, there was no way for Rafe to guide his log toward the
drowning man. Nor did he have anything to reach out for Turner
to grasp. The axe handle was not long enough, and the foreman's
canthook had disappeared.
Below, the men were struggling to get the big boat out from under
the bank into the stream. Two of them stood up with their
canthooks to fend off the drifting logs; the others plied the
But the boat was too far from the man in the river. He was
menaced on all sides by plunging logs. He barely escaped one to
be grazed on the shoulder by another. A third pressed him under
the surface again; but as he went down this second time, Rafe
Sherwood threw away his axe and leaped into the flood!
OLD TOBY VANDERWILLER
Nan was sure her Cousin Rafe would be drowned, as well as his
foreman. She covered her eyes for a moment, and could not look.
Then a great cheer arose from the men in the boat and those still
remaining on the bank of the river. Her uncle, beside her,
"Plucky boy! Plucky boy!"
Her eyes flew open and she looked again. In the midst of the
scattering foam she saw a small log over which her cousin had
flung his left arm; his other arm was around the foreman, and
Rafe was bearing his head above water. Turner had been struck
and rendered senseless by the blow.
The small log slipped through a race between two shallows, ahead
of the greater timber. The latter indeed grounded for a moment
and that gave the victim of the accident and his rescuer a chance
They shot ahead with the log to which Rafe clung. The men in the
boat shouted encouragement, and rowed harder. In a minute the
boat came alongside the log and two of the rivermen grabbed the
boy and the unconscious foreman. They had them safely in the
boat, and the boat was at the shore again in three minutes.
By that time the big boss himself, Mr. Blackton, was tearing out
over the logs from the other shore, axe in hand, to cut the key
log of the jam, the formation of which Turner had tried to
prevent. A hundred logs had piled up against the stoppage by
this time and there promised to be a bad time at the bend if
every one did not work quickly.
Before Nan and her uncle could reach the foot of the bluff,
Turner had regained consciousness and was sitting on a stranded
log, holding his head. Rafe, just as he had come out of the
river, was out on the logs again lending a hand at the work so
necessary to the success of the drive.
"Oh, dear me!" cried Nan, referring to her cousin, "he ought to
go home and change his clothes. He'll get his death of cold."
"He'll work hard enough for the next hour to overcome the shock
of the cold water. It's lucky if he isn't in again before they
get that trouble over," responded Uncle Henry. Then he added,
proudly: "That's the kind of boys we raise in the Big Woods,
Nannie. Maybe they are rough-spoken and aren't really parlor-
broke, but you can depend on 'em to do something when there's
anything to do!"
"Oh, Uncle!" cried the girl. "I think Rafe is just the bravest
boy I ever saw. But I should think Aunt Kate would be scared
every hour he is away from home, he is so reckless."
She was very proud herself of Rafe and wrote Bess a lot about
him. Slow Tom did not figure much in Nan Sherwood's letters, or
in her thoughts, about this time. Thoughts and letters were
filled with handsome Rafe.
It was while the Blackton drive was near Pine Camp that Nan
became personally acquainted with old Toby Vanderwiller. It was
after dinner that day that she met Margaret and Bob Llewellen and
the three went down to the river bank, below the bridge, to watch
the last of the Blackton drive.
The chuck-boat had pushed off into the rough current and was
bobbing about in the wake of the logs; but all the men had not
"That's old Toby," said Bob, a black-haired boy, full of
mischief. "He don't see us. Le's creep up and scare him."
"No," said Nan, decidedly; "don't you dare!"
"Aw, shucks! Girls ain't no fun," the boy growled. "Mag's bad
enough, but you air wuss'n she, Nan Sherwood. What's old Toby to
you? He's allus as cross as two sticks, anyway."
"We won't make him any crosser," said Nan, laughing. "What's the
Nan saw that the old man had his coat off, and had slipped down
the right sleeve of his woolen shirt to bare his shoulder and
upper right arm. He was clumsily trying to bandage the arm.
"He's got hurt," Nan cried to Margaret. "I wonder how?"
"Dunno," returned the smaller girl, carelessly. Although she was
not mischievous like her brother, Margaret seldom showed traits
of tenderness or affection. Nan was in some doubt as to whether
the strange girl liked her. Margaret often patted Nan's cheeks
and admired her smooth skin; but she never expressed any real
affection. She was positively the oddest little piece of
humanity Nan had ever met.
Once Nan asked her if she had a doll. "Doll?" snarled Margaret
with surprising energy. "A'nt Matildy give me one once't an' I
throwed it as far as I could inter the river, so I did! Nasty
thing! Its face was all painted and rough."
Nan could only gasp. Drown a doll-baby! Big girl as she
considered herself, she had a very tender spot in her heart for
Margaret Llewellen only liked people with fair faces and smooth
complexions; she could not possibly be interested in old Toby
Vanderwiller, who seemed always to need a shave, and whose face,
like that of Margaret's grandfather, was "wizzled."
Nan ran down to him and asked: "Can't I help you, Mr.
Vanderwiller? Did you get badly hurt?"
"Hullo!" grunted Toby. "Ain't you Hen Sherwood's gal?"
"I'm his niece," she told him. "Can I help?"
"Well, I dunno. "I got a wallop from one o' them logs when we
was breakin' that jam, and it's scraped the skin off me arm----"
"Let me see," cried Nan, earnestly. "Oh! Mr. Vanderwiller!
That must be painful. Haven't you anything to put on it?"
"Nothin' but this rag," grunted Toby, drily. "An' ye needn't
call me 'Mister,' Sissy. I ain't useter bein' addressed that
Nan laughed; but she quickly washed the scraped patch on the old
man's arm with clean water and then bound her own handkerchief
over the abrasion under the rather doubtful rag that Toby himself
"You're sure handy, Sissy," he said, rising and allowing her to
help him into the shirt again and on with his coat. "Now I'll
hafter toddle along or Tim will give me a call-down. Much
obleeged. If ye get inter the tam'rack swamp, come dry-foot
weather, stop and see me an' my old woman."
"Oh! I'd love to, Mr. Vanderwiller," Nan cried. "The swamp must
be full of just lovely flowers now."
The old man's face wrinkled into a smile, the first she had seen
upon it. Really! He was not a bad looking man, after all.
"You fond of posies, sissy?" he asked.
"Indeed I am!" she cried.
"There's a-plenty in the swamp," he told her. "And no end of
ferns and sich. You come see us and my old woman'll show ye.
She's a master hand at huntin' up all kind o' weeds I tell her."
"I'll surely come, when the weather gets warmer," Nan called
after Toby as the old man dogtrotted down the bank of the river.
But he did not answer and was quickly out of sight.
But Margaret Llewellen declared she would not go with her!
"It's nasty in the Tam'rack swamp; and there's frogs and, and
snakes. Ketch me! And as fur goin' ter see Tobe and his old
woman, huh! They're both as ugly as sin."
"Why, Margaret!" exclaimed Nan, in horror. "How you talk!"
"Wal, it's so. I don't like old, wizzled-up folks, I don't, now
I tell ye!"
"That sounds awfully cruel," said Nan, soberly.
"Huh!" snorted Margaret, no other word would just express her
manner of showing disgust. "There ain't no reason why I should
go 'round makin' believe likin' them as I don't like. Dad useter
take the hide off'n me and Bob for lyin'; an' then he'd stand an'
palaver folks that he jest couldn't scurce abide, fur I heard
him say so. That's lyin', too ain't it?"
"I, I don't believe it is right to criticize our parents,"
returned Nan, dodging the sharp girl's question.
"Mebbe yourn don't need criticizin', responded Margaret, bluntly.
"My dad ain't no angel, you kin bet."
And it was a fact that the Llewellen family was a peculiar one,
from "Gran'ther" down to Baby Bill, whom Margaret did not mind
taking care of when he was not "all broke out with the rash on
his face." The girl's dislike for any countenance that was not
of the smoothest, or skin of the softest texture, seemed strange
Margaret's mother was dead. She had five brothers and sisters of
assorted ages, up to 'Lonzo, who was sixteen and worked in the
woods like Nan's cousins.
Aunt Matilda kept house for the motherless brood, and for
Gran'ther and Mr. Fen Llewellen. They lived in a most haphazard
fashion, for, although they were not really poor, the children
never seemed to have any decent clothing to wear; and if, by
chance, they got a new garment, something always happened to it
as, for instance, the taking of Margaret's new gingham by Bob as
a dress for old Beagle.
As the Llewellens were close neighbors of the Sherwoods, Nan saw
much of Margaret. The local school closed soon after the visitor
had come to Pine Camp, and Nan had little opportunity of getting
acquainted with other girls, save at the church service, which
was held in the schoolhouse only every other Sunday. There was
no Sunday School at Pine Camp, even for the very youngest of the
Nan talked to Aunt Kate about that. Aunt Kate was the very
kindest-hearted woman that ever lived; but she had little
initiative herself about anything outside her own house.
"Goodness knows, I'd like to see the kiddies gathered together on
Sunday afternoon and taught good things," she signed; "but lawsy,
Nan! I'm not the one to do it. I'm not good enough myself."
"Didn't you teach Tom and Rafe, and and " Nan stopped. She
had almost mentioned the two older boys of her aunt's, whom she
had heard were destroyed in the Pale Lick fire. Aunt Kate did
not notice, for she went on to say:
"Why - yes; I taught Tom and Rafe to say their prayers, and I
hope they say 'em now, big as they are. And we often read the
Bible. It's a great comfort, the main part of it. I never did
take to the 'begats,' though."
"But couldn't we," suggested Nan, "interest other people and
gather the children together on Sundays? Perhaps the old
gentleman who comes here to preach every fortnight might help."
"Elder Posey's not here but three hours or so, any time. Just
long enough to give us the word and grab a bite at somebody's
house. Poor old man! He attends three meetings each Sunday,
all different, and lives on a farm at Wingate weekdays where he
has to work and support his family.
"He doesn't get but fifty dollars a year from each church, it's
not making him a millionaire very fast," pursued Aunt Kate, with
a soft little laugh. "Poor old man! I wish we could pay him
more; but Pine Camp's not rich."
"You all seem to have enough and to spare, Auntie," said Nan, who
was an observant girl for her age. "Nobody here is really poor."
"Not unless he's right down lazy," said her aunt, vigorously.
"Then I should think they'd build a proper church and give a
minister some more money, so that he could afford to have a
Sunday School as well."
"Lawsy me, Nan!" exclaimed her aunt. "The men here in Pine Camp
haven't been woke up to such things. They hate to spend that
fifty dollars for Elder Posey, they'd get a cheaper man if there
were such. There's never been much out of the common happen here
at Pine Camp. It takes trouble and destruction to wake folks up
to their Christian duty in these woods. Now, at Pale Lick
they've got a church-----"
She stopped suddenly, and her face paled, while the ugly scar on
her neck seemed to glow; but that may have been only in contrast.
Aunt Kate turned away her head, and finally arose and went into
her own room and closed the door. Nan dared not continue the
subject when the good woman came out again, and the talk of a
Sunday School for Pine Camp, for the time being, was ended.
There were hours when the girl from Tillbury was very lonely
indeed. Writing to Bess and other girl friends in her old home
town and penning long letters on thin paper to Momsey and Papa
Sherwood in Scotland, did not fill all of these hours when Nan
shut herself into that east room.
Sometimes she pulled down the paper shades and opened the clothes
closet door, bringing out the long box she had hidden away there
on the first day she had come to Pine Camp. In that box, wrapped
in soft tissue paper, and dressed in the loveliest gown made by
Momsey's own skillful fingers, was the great doll that had been
given to Nan on her tenth birthday.
When girls went to high school, of course they were supposed to
put away dolls, together with other childish things. But Nan
Sherwood never could neglect her doll-babies and had often spent
whole rainy days playing with them in secret in the attic of the
little house on Amity Street.
Her other dolls had been left, carefully wrapped and shielded
from the mice, at Tillbury; but Nan had been unable to leave
Beautiful Beulah behind. She packed her in the bottom of her
trunk, unknown even to Momsey in the hurry of departure. She had
not told a soul here at Pine Camp that she possessed a doll; she
knew the boys would make fun of her for sure.
But she often sat behind the drawn shades nursing the big doll
and crooning softly to it as she swung back and forth in the
spring rocking-chair. Tom had oiled the springs for her so that
it no longer creaked.
She did not confide even in Aunt Kate about the big doll. They
were all very kind to her; but Nan had a feeling that she ought
to be grown up here among her backwoods relatives. How could she
ever face roguish Rafe if he knew she liked to "play dolls?"
Fearing that even Margaret would tell, Nan had never shown the
woods girl Beautiful Beulah. Once she was afraid Margaret had
come to the window to peep in when Nan had the doll out of her
hiding place; but she was not sure, and Nan hoped her secret was
still inviolate. At least, Margaret never said a word about it.
Margaret's sisters had dolls made of corncobs, and rag babies
with painted faces like the one Margaret had thrown into the
river and drowned; but Margaret turned up her nose at them all.
She never seemed to want to "play house" as do most girls of her
age. She preferred to run wild, like a colt, with Bob in the
woods and swamp.
Margaret did not wish to go into the swamp with Nan, however, on
her first visit to Toby Vanderwiller's little farm. This was
some weeks after the log drives, and lumbering was over for the
season. Uncle Henry and the boys, rather than be idle, were
working every acre they owned, and Nan was more alone than she
had ever been since coming to Pine Camp.
She had learned the way to Toby's place, the main trail through
the swamp going right by the hummock on which the old man's farm
was situated. She knew there was a corduroy road most of the way
that is, a road built of logs laid side by side directly over
the miry ground. Save in very wet weather this road was passable
for most vehicles.
The distance was but three miles, however, and Nan liked walking.
Besides, nobody who has not seen a tamarack swamp in late spring
or early summer, can ever imagine how beautiful it is. Nan never
missed human companionship when she was on the long walks she so
often took in the woods.
She had learned now that, despite her adventure with the lynx in
the snow-drifted hollow, there was scarcely any animal to fear
about Pine Camp. Bears had not been seen for years; bobcats were
very infrequently met with and usually ran like scared rabbits;
foxes were of course shy, and the nearest approach to a wolf in
all that section was Toby Vanderwiller's wolfhound that had once
frightened Nan so greatly.
Hares, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, and many, many birds,
peopled the forest and swamp. In sunken places where the green
water stood and steamed in the sun, turtles and frogs were
plentiful; and occasionally a snake, as harmless as it was
wicked looking, slid off a water-soaked log at Nan's approach
and slipped under the oily surface of the pool.
On the day Nan walked to Toby's place the first time, she saw
many wonders of plant life along the way, exotics clinging to
rotten logs and stumps; fronds of delicate vines that she had
never before heard of; ferns of exquisite beauty. And flashing
over them, and sucking honey from every cuplike flower, were
shimmering humming-birds and marvelously marked butterflies.
The birds screamed or sang or chattered over the girl's head as
she tripped along. Squirrels peeped at her, barked, and then
whisked their tails in rapid flight. Through the cool, dark
depths where the forest monarchs had been untouched by the
woodsmen, great moths winged their lazy flight. Nan knew not
half of the creatures or the wonderful plants she saw.
There were sounds in the deeps of the swamplands that she did not
recognize, either. Some she supposed must be the voices of huge
frogs; other notes were bird-calls that she had never heard
before. But suddenly, as she approached a turn in the corduroy
road, her ear was smitten by a sound that she knew very well
It was a man's voice, and it was not a pleasant one. It caused
Nan to halt and look about for some place to hide until the owner
of the voice went by. She feared him because of his harsh tones,
though she did not, at the moment, suspect who it was.
Then suddenly she heard plainly a single phrase: "I'd give money,
I tell ye, to see Hen Sherwood git his!"
IN THE TAMARACK SWAMP
The harsh tone of the unseen man terrified Nan Sherwood; but the
words he spoke about her Uncle Henry inspired her to creep nearer
that she might see who it was, and hear more. The fact that she
was eavesdropping did not deter the girl.
She believed her uncle's life to be in peril!
The dampness between the logs of the roadway oozed up in little
pools and steamed in the hot blaze of the afternoon sun. Insects
buzzed and hummed, so innumerable that the chorus of their voices
was like the rumble of a great church-organ.
Nan stepped from the road and pushed aside the thick underbrush
to find a dry spot to place her foot. The gnats danced before
her and buzzed in her ears. She brushed them aside and so pushed
on until she could see the road again. A lean, yellow horse,
tackled to the shafts of a broken top-buggy with bits of rope as
well as worn straps, stood in the roadway. The man on the seat,
talking to another on the ground, was Mr. Gedney Raffer, the
timberman who was contending at law with Uncle Henry.
It was he who had said: "I'd give money, I tell ye, to see Hen
Sherwood git his."
There had fallen a silence, but just as Nan recognized the mean
looking old man on the carriage seat, she heard the second man
speak from the other side of the buggy.
"I tell you like I done Hen himself, Ged; I don't wanter be mixed
up in no land squabble. I ain't for neither side."
It was Toby. Nan knew his voice, and she remembered how he had
answered Uncle Henry at the lumber camp, the first day she had
seen the old lumberman. Nan could not doubt that the two men
were discussing the argument over the boundary of the Perkins
Gedney Raffer snarled out an imprecation when old Toby had
replied as above. "Ef you know which side of your bread the
butter's on, you'll side with me," he said.
"We don't often have butter on our bread, an' I ain't goin' ter
side with nobody," grumbled Toby Vanderwiller.
"S-s!" hissed Raffer. "Come here!"
Toby stepped closer to the rattletrap carriage. "You see your
way to goin' inter court an' talkin' right, and you won't lose
nothin' by it, Tobe."
"Huh? Only my self-respect, I s'pose," grunted the old
lumberman, and Nan approved very much of him just then.
"Bah!" exclaimed Raffer.
"Bah, yourself!" Toby Vanderwiller returned with some heat. "I
got some decency left, I hope. I ain't goin' to lie for you, nor
no other man, Ged Raffer!"
"Say! Would it be lyin' ef you witnessed on my side?" demanded
the eager Raffer.
"That's my secret," snapped the old lumberman. "If I don't
witness for you, be glad I don't harm you."
"You dare!" cried Raffer, shaking his fist at the other as he
leaned from the buggy seat.
"You hearn me say I wouldn't go inter court one way or 'tother,"
repeated Toby, gloomily.
"Wal," snarled Raffer, "see't ye don't see't ye don't.
'Specially for any man but me. Ye 'member what I told ye, Tobe.
Money's tight and I oughter call in that loan."
Toby was silent for half a minute. Then Nan heard him sigh.
"Well, Ged," he observed, "it's up to you. If you take the place
it'll be the poorhouse for that unforchunit boy of mine and mebbe
for the ol' woman, 'specially if I can't strike a job for next
winter. These here lumber bosses begin to think I'm too stiff in
"Wal, wal!" snarled Raffer. "I can't help it. How d'ye expec' I
kin help you ef you won't help me?"
He clucked to the old horse, which awoke out of its drowse with a
start, and moved on sluggishly. Toby stood in the road and
watched him depart. Nan thought the old lumberman's to be the
most sorrowful figure she had ever seen.
Her young heart beat hotly against the meanness and injustice of
Gedney Raffer. He had practically threatened Toby with
foreclosure on his little farm if the old lumberman would not
help him in his contention with Mr. Sherwood. On the other hand,
Uncle Henry desired his help; but Uncle Henry, Nan knew, would
not try to bribe the old lumberman. Under these distressing
circumstances, which antagonist's interests was Toby Vanderwiller
likely to serve?
This query vastly disturbed Nan Sherwood. All along she had
desired much to help Uncle Henry solve his big problem. The
courts would not allow him to cut a stick of timber on the
Perkins Tract until a resurvey of the line was made by
government-appointed surveyors, and that would be, when?
Uncle Henry's money was tied up in the stumpage lease, or first
payment to the owners of the land. It was a big contract and he
had expected to pay his help and further royalties on the lease,
from the sale of the timber he cut on the tract. Besides, many
valuable trees had been felled before the injunction was served,
and lay rotting on the ground. Every month they lay there
decreased their value.
And now, it appeared, Gedney Raffer was doing all in his power to
influence old Toby to serve as a witness in his, Raffer's,
Had toby been willing to go into court and swear that the line of
the Perkins Tract was as Mr. Sherwood claimed, the court would
have to vacate the injunction and Uncle Henry could risk going
ahead and cutting and hauling timber from the tract. Uncle Henry
believed Toby knew exactly where the line lay, for he had been a
landloper, or timber-runner in this vicinity when the original
survey was made, forty-odd years before.
It was plain to Nan, hiding in the bushes and watching the old
man's face, that he was dreadfully tempted. Working as hard as
he might, summer and winter alike, Toby Vanderwiller had scarcely
been able to support his wife and grandson. His occasional
attacks of rheumatism so frequently put him back. If Raffer took
away the farm and the shelter they had, what would become of
Uncle Henry was so short of ready money himself that he could not
assume the mortgage if Raffer undertook to foreclose.
"Oh, dear me! If Momsey would only write to me that she is
really rich," thought Nan, "I'd beg her for the money. I'll tell
her all about poor Toby in my very next letter and maybe, if she
gets all that money from the courts in Scotland, she will let me
give Toby enough to pay off the mortgage."
She never for a moment doubted that Uncle Henry's contention
about the timber tract line was right. He must be correct, and
old Toby must know it! That is the way Nan Sherwood looked at
But now, seeing Toby turning back along the corduroy road, and
slowly shuffling toward home, she stepped out of the hovering
bushes and walked hastily after him. She overtook him not many
yards beyond the spot where he had stood talking with Raffer. He
looked startled when she spoke his name.
"Well! You air a sight for sore eyes, Sissy," he said; but
added, nervously, "How in Joe Tunket did you git in the swamp?
Along the road?"
"Yes, sir," said Nan.
"Come right erlong this way?"
"Did ye meet anybody?" demanded old Toby, eyeing her sharply.
"Mr. Raffer, driving his old buckskin horse. That's all."
"Didn't say nothin' to ye, did he?" asked Toby, curiously.
"Not a word," replied Nan, honestly. "I'm afraid of him and I
hid in the bushes till he had gone by."
"Huh!" sighed Toby, as though relieved. "Jest as well. Though
Ged wouldn't ha' dared touch ye, Sissy."
"Never mind. I'm here now," said Nan, brightly. "And I want you
to show me your house and introduce me to Mrs. Vanderwiller."
"Sure. My ol' woman will be glad to see ye," said the man,
briskly. "'Tain't more'n a mile furder on."
But first they came to a deserted place, a strip more than half
a mile wide, where the trees had been cut in a broad belt
through the swamp. All Nan could see was sawdust and the stumps
of felled trees sticking out of it. The sawdust, Toby said, was
anywhere from two to twenty feet deep, and there were acres of
"They had their mill here, ye kin see the brick work yonder.
They hauled out the lumber by teams past my place. The stea'mill
was here more'n two years. They hauled the sawdust out of the
way and dumped it in ev'ry holler, jest as it come handy."
"What a lot there is of it!" murmured Nan, sniffing doubtfully at
the rather unpleasant odor of the sawdust.
"I wish't 'twas somewhere else," grunted Toby.
"Fire git in it and it'd burn till doomsday. Fire in sawdust is
a mighty bad thing. Ye see, even the road here is made of
sawdust, four foot or more deep and packed as solid as a brick
walk. That's the way Pale Lick went, sawdust afire. Ha'f the
town was built on sawdust foundation an' she smouldered for weeks
before they knowed of it. Then come erlong a big wind and
started the blaze to the surface."
"Oh!" murmured Nan, much interested. "Didn't my Uncle Henry live
"I sh'd say he did," returned Toby, emphatically. "Didn't he
never tell ye about it?"
"No, sir. They never speak of Pale Lick."
"Well, I won't, nuther," grunted old Toby. "'Taint pretty for a
young gal like you to hear about. Whush! Thar goes a loon!"
A big bird had suddenly come into sight, evidently from some
nearby water-hole. It did not fly high and seemed very clumsy,
like a duck or goose.
"Oh! Are they good to eat, Mr. Vanderwiller?" cried Nan. "Rafe
brought in a brace of summer ducks the other day, and they were
awfully good, the way Aunt Kate cooked them."
"Well!" drawled Toby, slyly, "I've hearn tell ye c'd eat a loon,
ef 'twas cooked right. But I never tried it."
"How do you cook a loon, Mr. Vanderwiller?" asked Nan, interested
in all culinary pursuits.
"Well, they tell me thet it's some slow process," said the old
man, his eyes twinkling. "Ye git yer loon, pluck an' draw it,
let it soak overnight in vinegar an' water, vitriol vinegar they
say is the best. Then ye put it in the pot an' let it simmer all
"Yes?" queried the perfectly innocent Nan.
"Then ye throw off that water," Toby said, soberly, "and ye put
on fresh water an' let it cook all the next day."
"An' then ye throw in a piece of grin'stone with the loon, and
set it to bilin' again. When ye kin stick a fork in the
grin'stone, the loon's done!"
Nan joined in Toby's loud laugh at this old joke, and pretty soon
thereafter they came to the hummock on which the Vanderwillers
ON THE ISLAND
In the winter it was probably dreary enough; but now the beauty
of the swelling knoll where the little whitewashed house stood,
with the tiny fields that surrounded it, actually made Nan's
heart swell and the tears come into her eyes.
It seemed to her as though she had never seen the grass so green
as here, and the thick wood that encircled the little farm was
just a hedge of blossoming shrubs with the tall trees shooting
skyward in unbroken ranks. A silver spring broke ground at the
corner of the paddock fence. A pool had been scooped out for the
cattle to drink at; but it was not muddied, and the stream
tinkled down over the polished pebbles to the wider, more
sluggish stream that meandered away from the farm into the depths
of the swamp.
Toby told her, before they reached the hummock, that this stream
rose in the winter and flooded all about the farm, so that the
latter really was an island. Unless the ice remained firm they
sometimes could not drive out with either wagon or sled for days
at a time.
"Then you live on an island," cried Nan.
"Huh! Ye might say so," complained Toby. "And sometimes we feel
like as though we was cast away on one, too."
But the girl thought it must really be great fun to live on an
They went up to the house along the bank of the clear stream. On
the side porch, vine-covered to the eaves, sat an old woman
rocking in a low chair and another figure in what seemed at a
distance, to be a child's wagon of wickerwork, but with no tongue
and a high back to it.
"Here's Gran'pop!" cried a shrill voice and the little wagon
moved swiftly to the edge of the steps. Nan almost screamed in
fear as it pitched downward. But the wheels did not bump over
the four steps leading to the ground, for a wide plank had been
laid slantingly at that side, and over this the wheels ran
smoothly, if rapidly.
"You have a care there, Corson!" shrilled the old lady after the
cripple. "Some day you'll break your blessed neck."
Nan thought he was a little boy, until they met. Then she was
surprised to see a young man's head set upon a shriveled child's
body! Corson Vanderwiller had a broad brow, a head of beautiful,
brown, wavy hair, and a fine mustache. He was probably all of
twenty-five years old.
But Nan soon learned that the poor cripple was not grown in mind,
more than in body, to that age. His voice was childish, and his
speech and manner, too. He was bashful with Nan at first; then
chattered like a six-year-old child to her when she had once
gained his confidence.
He wheeled himself about in the little express wagon very well
indeed, old Toby having rigged brakes with which he moved the
wagon and steered it. His arms and hands were quite strong, and
when he wished to get back on to the piazza, he seized a rope his
grandfather had hung there, and dragged himself, wagon and all,
up the inclined plane, or gangplank, as it might be called.
He showed Nan all his treasures, and they included some very
childish toys, a number of them showing the mechanical skill of
his grandfather's blunt fingers. But among them, too, were
treasures from the swamp and woods that were both very wonderful
and very beautiful.
Old Toby had made Corson a neatly fitted cabinet in which were
specimens of preserved butterflies and moths, most of them of
the gay and common varieties; but some, Nan was almost sure, were
rare and valuable. There was one moth in particular, with spread
wings, on the upper side of the thorax of which was traced in
white the semblance of a human skull. Nan was almost sure that
this must be the famous death's-head moth she had read about in
school; but she was not confident enough to say anything to old
Toby Vanderwiller. A few specimens of this rare insect have been
found in the swamps of America, although it was originally
supposed to be an Old World moth.
Nan did say, however, to Toby that perhaps some of these
specimens might be bought by collectors. The pressed flowers
were pretty but not particularly valuable. In the museum at the
Tillbury High School there was a much finer collection from the
"Sho!" said Toby, slowly; "I wouldn't wanter sell the boy's
pretties. I brung most on 'em home to him; but he mounted 'em
Nan suspected that old Mrs. Vanderwiller had much to do with the
neat appearance of the cabinet. She was a quiet, almost a
speechless, old lady. But she was very kind and she set out her
best for Nan's luncheon before the girl from Tillbury returned
"We ain't got much here on the island," the old lady said; "but
we do love to have visitors. Don't we, Corson?"
"Nice ones," admitted the cripple, munching cake.
He had heard something of what Nan suggested to Toby about the
moths and other specimens. So when the old lady was absent from
the porch he whispered:
"Well?" she asked, smiling at him.
"Is what's in that cabinet wuth as much as a dollar?"
"Oh! I expect so," said Nan. "More."
"Will you give me a dollar for 'em?" he asked, eagerly.
"Oh, I couldn't! But perhaps I can write to somebody who would
be interested in buying some of your things, and for much more
than a dollar."
Corson looked disappointed. Nan asked, curiously: "Why do you
want the dollar?"
"To git Gran'mom a silk dress," he said promptly. "She's admired
to have one all her life, and ain't never got to git it yet."
"I'm sure that's nice of you," declared Nan, warmly. "I'll try
to sell some of your collection."
"Well!" he jerked out. "It's got to be pretty soon, or she won't
git to wear it much. I heard her tell Gran'pop so."
This impressed Nan Sherwood as being very pitiful, for she was of
a sympathetic nature. And it showed that Corson Vanderwiller,
even if he was simple-minded, possessed one of the great human
On this, her first visit to the island in the swamp, Nan said
nothing to old Toby Vanderwiller about the line dispute between
her uncle and Gedney Raffer, which the old lumberman was supposed
to be able to settle if he would.
Mrs. Vanderwiller insisted upon Toby's hitching up an old,
broken-kneed pony he owned, and taking her over the corduroy road
to Pine Camp, where she arrived before dark. To tell the truth,
little Margaret Llewellen was not the only person who thought it
odd that Nan should want to go to see the Vanderwillers in the
heart of the tamarack swamp. Nan's uncle and aunt and cousins
considered their guest a little odd; but they made no open
comment when the girl arrived at home after her visit.
Nan was full of the wonders she had seen, commonplace enough to
her relatives who had lived all their lives in touch with the
beautiful and queer things of Nature as displayed in the Michigan
Peninsula. Perhaps none but Tom appreciated her ecstasy over
crippled Corson Vanderwiller's collection.
Rafe was inclined to poke good-natured fun at his young cousin
for her enthusiasm; but Tom showed an understanding that quite
surprised Nan. Despite his simplicity regarding some of the
commonest things of the great outside world, he showed that he
was very observant of the things about him.
"Oh, Tom was always like that," scoffed Rafe, with ready laughter
at his slow brother. "He'd rather pick up a bug any day and put
it through a cross-examination, than smash it under the sole of
"I don't think bugs were made to smash," Tom said stoutly.
"Whew! What in thunder were they made for?" demanded the mocking
"I don't think God Almighty made things alive just for us to make
'em dead," said Tom, clumsily, and blushing a deep red.
Rafe laughed again. Rafe had read much more in a desultory
fashion than Tom.
"Tom ought to be one of those Brahmas," he said, chuckling.
"They carry a whisk broom to brush off any seat they may sit on
before they sit down, so's they sha'n't crush an ant, or any
other crawling thing. They're vegetarians, too, and won't take
life in any form."
"Now, Rafe!" exclaimed his mother, who was never quite sure when
her younger son was playing the fool. "You know that Brahmas are
hens. I've got some in my flock those big white and black,
lazy fowls, with feathers on their legs."
Nan had to laugh at that as well as Rafe. "Brahma fowl, I guess,
came from Brahma, or maybe Brahmaputra, all right. But Rafe
means Brahmans. They're a religious people of India," the girl
from Tillbury said.
"And maybe they've got it right," Tom said stubbornly. "Why
should we kill unnecessarily?"
Nan could have hugged him. At any rate, a new feeling for him
was born at that moment, and she applauded. Aunt Kate said:
"Tom always was soft-hearted," and her big son became silent.
She might as well have called him "soft-headed"; but Nan began
better to appreciate Tom's worth from that time on.
Rafe remained in her eyes still the reckless, heroic figure he
had seemed when running over the logs the day of the timber
drive. But she began to confide in Tom after this evening of her
return from the tamarack swamp.
However, this is somewhat in advance of the story. The pleasant
evening passed as usual until bedtime came for Nan. She retired
to her east chamber, for the windows of which Tom had made
screens to keep out the night-flying insects. No matter how
tired she was at night there was one thing Nan Sherwood seldom
Possibly it was silly in a girl who was almost through her
freshman year at high school, but Nan brought out Beautiful
Beulah and rocked her, and hugged her, and crooned over her
before she went to bed. She was such a comfort!
So Nan, on this evening, went first of all to the closet and
reached down to draw out the box in which she had kept the doll
hidden ever since coming to Pine Camp.
It was not there!
At first Nan Sherwood could not believe this possible. She
dropped on her knees and scrambled over the floor of her closet,
reaching under the hanging skirts and frocks, her fear rising,
second by second.
The box was not in its place. She arose and looked about her
room wildly. Of course, she had not left it anywhere else, that
was out of the question.
She could scarcely believe that any member of the family had been
in her room, much less would disturb anything that was hers.
Not even Aunt Kate came to the east chamber often. Nan had
insisted upon taking care of the room, and she swept and dusted
and cleaned like the smart little housewife she was. Aunt Kate
had been content to let her have her way in this.
Of course Nan never locked her door. But who would touch a thing
belonging to her? And her doll! Why, she was sure the family
did not even know she had such a possession.
Almost wildly the girl ran out of her chamber and into the
sitting room, where the family was still gathered around the
evening lamp, Rafe cleaning his shot-gun, Tom reading slowly the
local paper, published at the Forks, Aunt Kate mending, and Uncle
Henry sitting at the open window with his pipe.
"Oh, it's gone!" gasped Nan, as she burst into the room.
"What's gone?" asked Aunt Kate, and Uncle Henry added: "What's
happened to you, honey-bird?"
"My Beulah!" cried Nan, almost sobbing. "My Beulah, she's been
"My mercy, child!" cried Aunt Kate, jumping up. "Are you crazy?"
"Who's Beulah?" demanded Rafe, looking up from his gun and, Nan
thought, showing less surprise than the others.
"My Beulah doll," said Nan, too troubled now to care whether the
family laughed at her or not. "My Beautiful Beulah. Somebody's
played a trick "
"A doll!" shouted Rafe, and burst into a chatter of laughter.
"Mercy me, child!" repeated Aunt Kate. "I didn't know you had a
"Got a baby rattle, too, Sissy?" chuckled Rafe. "And a ring to
cut your teeth on? My, my!"
"Stop that, Rafe!"commanded his father, sternly, while Tom
flushed and glared angrily at his brother.
"I didn't know you had a doll, Nannie," said Mrs. Sherwood,
rather weakly. "Where'd you have it?"
"In my closet," choked Nan. "She's a great, big, beautiful
thing! I know somebody must be playing a joke on me "
"Nobody here, Nannie," said Uncle Henry, with decision. "You may
be sure of that." But he looked at Rafe sternly. That young man
thought it the better part of wisdom to say no more.
In broken sentences the girl told her innocent secret, and why
she had kept the doll hidden. Aunt Kate, after, all, seemed to
"My poor dear!" she crooned, patting Nan's hand between her hard
palms. "We'll all look for the dolly. Surely it can't have been
taken out of the house."
"And who'd even take it out of her closet?" demanded Tom, almost
as stern as his father.
"It surely didn't walk away of itself," said Aunt Kate.
She took a small hand lamp and went with Nan to the east chamber.
They searched diligently, but to no good end, save to assure Nan
that Beulah had utterly disappeared.
As far as could be seen the screens at the windows of the bedroom
had not been disturbed. But who would come in from outside to
steal Nan's doll? Indeed, who would take it out of the closet,
anyway? The girl was almost sure that nobody had known she had
it. It was strange, very strange indeed.
Big girl that she was, Nan cried herself to sleep that night over
the mystery. The loss of Beulah seemed to snap the last bond
that held her to the little cottage in Amity street, where she
had spent all her happy childhood.
THE SMOKING TREE
Nan awoke to a new day with the feeling that the loss of her
treasured doll must have been a bad dream. But it was not.
Another search of her room and the closet assured her that it was
a horrid reality.
She might have lost many of her personal possessions without a
pang; but not Beautiful Beulah. Nan could not tell her aunt or
the rest of the family just how she felt about it. She was sure
they would not understand.
The doll had reminded her continually of her home life. Although
the stay of her parents in Scotland was much more extended than
they or Nan had expected, the doll was a link binding the girl to
her old home life which she missed so much.
Her uncle and aunt had tried to make her happy here at Pine Camp.
As far as they could do so they had supplied the love and care of
Momsey and Papa Sherwood. But Nan was actually ill for her old
home and her old home associations.
On this morning, by herself in her bedroom, she cried bitterly
before she appeared before the family.
"I have no right to make them feel miserable just because my,
heart, is, breaking," she sobbed aloud. "I won't let them see
how bad I feel. But if I don't find Beulah, I just know I shall
Could she have run to Momsey for comfort it would have helped,
Oh, how much!
"I am a silly," Nan told herself at last, warmly. "But I cannot
help it. Oh, dear! Where can Beulah have gone?"
She bathed her eyes well in the cold spring water brought by Tom
that she always found in the jug outside her door in the morning,
and removed such traces of tears as she could; and nobody noticed
when she went out to breakfast that her eyelids were puffy and
her nose a bit red.
The moment Rafe caught sight of her he began to squall,
supposedly like an infant, crying:
"Ma-ma! Ma-ma! Tum an' take Too-tums. Waw! Waw! Waw!"
After all her hurt pride and sorrow, Nan would have called up a
laugh at this. But Tom, who was drinking at the water bucket,
wheeled with the full dipper and threw the contents into Rafe's
face. That broke off the teasing cousin's voice for a moment;
but Rafe came up, sputtering and mad.
"Say! You big oaf!" he shouted. "What you trying to do?"
"Trying to be funny," said Tom, sharply. "And you set me the
"Now, boys!" begged Aunt Kate. "Don't quarrel."
"And, dear me, boys," gasped Nan, "please don't squabble about
"That big lummox!" continued Rafe, still angry. "Because dad
backs him up and says he ought to lick me, he does this. I'm
going to defend myself. If he does a thing like that again, I'll
Tom laughed in his slow way and lumbered out. Uncle Henry did
not hear this, and Nan was worried. She thought Aunt Kate was
inclined to side with her youngest boy. Rafe would always be
"the baby" to Aunt Kate.
At any rate Nan was very sorry the quarrel had arisen over her.
And she was careful to say nothing to fan further the flame of
anger between her cousins. Nor did she say anything more about
the lost doll. So the family had no idea how heartsore and
troubled the girl really was over the mystery.
It hurt her the more because she could talk to nobody about
Beulah. There was not a soul in whom she could confide. Had
Bess Harley been here at Pine Camp Nan felt that she could not
really expect sympathy from her chum at this time; for Bess
considered herself quite grown up and her own dolls were
relegated to the younger members of her family.
Nan could write to her chum, however, and did. She could write
to Momsey, and did that, too; not forgetting to tell her absent
parents about old Toby Vanderwiller, and his wife and his
grandson, and of their dilemma. If only Momsey's great fortune
came true, Nan was sure that Gedney Raffer would be paid off and
Toby would no longer have the threat of dispossession held over
Nan Sherwood wrote, too, to Mr. Mangel, the principal of the
Tillbury High School, and told him about the collection the
crippled grandson of the old lumberman had made, mentioning those
specimens which had impressed her most. She had some hope that
the strange moth might be very valuable.
Nan was so busy writing letters, and helping Aunt Kate preserve
some early summer fruit, that she did not go far from the house
during the next few days, and so did not see even Margaret
Llewellen. The other girl friends she had made at Pine Camp
lived too far away for her to visit them often or have them come
to call on her.
A long letter from Papa Sherwood about this time served to take
Nan's mind off the mystery, in part, at least. It was a nice
letter and most joyfully received by the girl; but to her despair
it gave promise of no very quick return of her parents from
"Those relatives of your mother's whom we have met here, Mr.
Andrew Blake's family, for instance, have treated us most
kindly. They are, themselves, all well-to-do, and gentlefolk as
well. The disposal by Old Hughie Blake, as he was known
hereabout, of his estate makes no difference to the other Blakes
living near Emberon," wrote Mr. Sherwood.
"It is some kin at a distance, children of a half sister of Old
Hughie, who have made a claim against the estate. Mr. Andrew
Blake, who is well versed in the Scotch law, assures us these
distant relatives have not the shadow of a chance of winning
their suit. He is so sure of this that he has kindly offered to
advance certain sums to your mother to tide us over until the
case is settled.
"I am sending some money to your Uncle Henry for your use, if any
emergency should arise. You must not look for our return, my
dear Nancy, too soon. Momsey's health is so much improved by the
sea voyage and the wonderfully invigorating air here, that I
should be loath to bring her home at once, even if the matter of
the legacy were settled. By the way, the sum she will finally
receive from Mr. Hugh Blake's estate will be quite as much as the
first letter from the lawyer led us to expect. Some of your
dearest wishes, my dear, may be realized in time."
"Oh! I can go to Lakeview Hall with Bess, after all!" cried Nan,
aloud, at this point.
Indeed, that possibility quite filled the girl's mind for a
while. Nothing else in Papa Sherwood's letter, aside from the
good news of Momsey's improved health, so pleased her as this
thought. She hastened to write a long letter to Bess Harley, with
Lakeview Hall as the text.
Summer seemed to stride out of the forest now, full panoplied.
After the frost and snow of her early days at Pine Camp, Nan had
not expected such heat. The pools beside the road steamed. The
forest was atune from daybreak to midnight with winged denizens,
for insect and bird life seemed unquenchable in the Big Woods.
Especially was this true of the tamarack swamp. It was
dreadfully hot at noontide on the corduroy road which passed Toby
Vanderwiller's little farm; but often Nan Sherwood went that way
in the afternoon. Mr. Mangel, the school principal, had written
Nan and encouraged her to send a full description of some of
Corson Vanderwiller's collection, especially of the wonderful
death's-head moth, to a wealthy collector in Chicago. Nan did
this at once.
So, one day, a letter came from the man and in it was a check for
"This is a retainer," the gentleman wrote. "I am much interested
in your account of the lame boy's specimens. I want the
strangely marked moth in any case, and the check pays for an
option on it until I can come and see his specimens personally."
Nan went that very afternoon to the tamarack swamp to tell the
Vanderwillers this news and give Toby the check. She knew poor
Corson would be delighted, for now he could purchase the longed-
for silk dress for his grandmother.
The day was so hot and the way so long that Nan was glad to sit
down when she reached the edge of the sawdust strip, to rest and
cool off before attempting this unshaded desert. A cardinal bird
one of the sauciest and most brilliant of his saucy and
brilliant race, flitted about her as she sat upon a log.
"You pretty thing!" crooned Nan. "If it were not wicked I'd wish
to have you at home in a cage. I wish"
She stopped, for in following the flight of the cardinal her gaze
fastened upon a most surprising thing off at some distance from
the sawdust road. A single dead tree, some forty feet in height
and almost limbless, stood in solemn grandeur in the midst of the
sawdust waste. It had been of no use to the woodcutters and they
had allowed the shell of the old forest monarch to stand. Now,
from its broken top, Nan espied a thin, faint column of blue haze
It was the queerest thing! It was not mist, of course and she
did not see how it could be smoke. There was no fire at the foot
of the tree, for she could see the base of the bole plainly. She
even got up and ran a little way out into the open in order to
see the other side of the dead tree.
The sky was very blue, and the air was perfectly still. Almost
Nan was tempted to believe that her eyes played her false. The
column was almost the color of the sky itself, and it was thin as
How could there be a fire in the top of that tall tree?
"There just isn't! I don't believe I see straight!" declared Nan
to herself, moving on along the roadway. "But I'll speak to Toby
Nan, however, did not mention to Toby the haze rising from the
dead tree. In the first place, when she reached the little farm
on the island in the tamarack swamp, old Toby Vanderwiller was
not at home. His wife greeted the girl warmly, and Corson was
glad to see her. When Nan spread the check before him and told
him what it was for, and what he could do with so much money, the
crippled boy was delighted.
It was a secret between them that the grandmother was to have the
black silk dress that she had longed for all her married life;
only Nan and Corson knew that Nan was commissioned to get the
check cashed and buy the dress pattern at the Forks; or send to a
catalogue house for it if she could not find a suitable piece of
goods at any of the local stores.
Nan lingered, hoping that Toby would come home. It finally grew
so late that she dared not wait longer. She had been warned by
Aunt Kate not to remain after dusk in the swamp, nor had she any
desire to do so.
Moreover there was a black cloud rolling up from the west. That
was enough to make the girl hurry, for when it rained in the
swamp, sometimes the corduroy road was knee deep in water.
The cloud had increased to such proportions when Nan was half way
across the sawdust desert that she began to run. She had
forgotten all about the smoking tree.
Not a breath of air was stirring as yet; but there was the
promise of wind in that cloud. The still leaves on the bushes,
the absence of bird life overhead, the lazy drone of insects,
portended a swift change soon. Nan was weather-wise enough to
She panted on, stumbling through the loose sawdust, but stumbling
equally in the ruts; for the way was very rough. This road was
lonely enough at best; but it seemed more deserted than ever now.
A red fox, his tail depressed, shot past her, and not many yards
away. It startled Nan, for it seemed as though something
dreadful was about to happen and the fox knew it and was running
away from it.
She could not run as fast as the fox; but Nan wished that she
could. And she likewise wished with all her heart that she would
That somebody she hoped would be Tom. Tom was drawing logs from
some point near, she knew. A man down the river had bought some
timber and they had been cut a few weeks before. Tom was drawing
them out of the swamp for the man; and he had mentioned only that
morning at breakfast that he was working within sight of the
sawdust tract and the corduroy road.
Nan felt that she would be safe with big, slow Tom. Even the
thought of thunder and lightning would lose some of its terrors
if she could only get to Tom.
Suddenly she heard a voice shouting, then the rattle of chain
harness. The voice boomed out a stave of an old hymn:
"On Jordan's stormy bank I stand,
And cast a wishful eye."
"It's Tom!" gasped Nan, and ran harder.
She was almost across the open space now. The cooler depths of
the forest were just ahead. Beyond, a road crossed the mainly-
traveled swamp track at right angles to it, and this was the path
He was now coming from the river, going deeper into the swamp for
another log. Nan continued to run, calling to him at the top of
She came in sight of the young timberman and his outfit. His
wagon rattled so that he could not easily hear his cousin calling
to him. He sat on the tongue of the wagon, and his big, slow-
moving horses jogged along, rattling their chains in a jingle
more noisy than harmonious.
The timber cart was a huge, lumbering affair with ordinary
cartwheels in front but a huge pair behind with an extended reach
between them; and to the axle of the rear pair of wheels the
timber to be transported was swung off the ground and fastened
with chains. Nan ran after the rumbling cart and finally Tom saw
"My mercy me!" gasped the boy, using one of his mother's favorite
expressions. "What you doing here, Nan?"
"Chasing you, Tom," laughed the girl. "Is it going to rain?"
"I reckon. You'll get wet if it does."
"I don't care so much for that," confessed Nan. "But I am so
afraid of thunder! Oh, there it comes."
The tempest muttered in the distance. Tom, who had pulled in his
horses and stopped, looked worried. "I wish you weren't here,
Nan," he said.
"How gallant you are, I declare, Tommy Sherwood," cried Nan,
laughing again, and then shuddering as the growl of the thunder
"Swamp's no place for a girl in a storm," muttered the boy.
"Well, I am here, Tommy; what are you going to do with me?" she
asked him, saucily.
"If you're so scared by thunder you'd better begin by stopping
your ears," he drawled.
Nan laughed. Slow Tom was not often good at repartee. "I'm
going to stick by you till it's over, Tom," she said, hopping up
behind him on the wagon-tongue.
"Cracky, Nan! You'll get soaked. It's going to just smoke in a
few minutes," declared the anxious young fellow.
And that reminded Nan again of the smoking tree.
"Oh, Tom! Do you know I believe there is a tree afire over
yonder," she cried, pointing.
"A tree afire?"
"Yes. I saw it smoking."
"My mercy me!" exclaimed Tom again. "What do you mean?"
Nan told him about the mystery. The fact that a column of smoke
arose out of the top of the dead tree seemed to worry Tom. Nan
"Oh, dear, Tom! Do you really think it was afire?"
"I, don't know. If it was afire, it is afire now," he said.
"Show me, Nan."
He turned the horses out of the beaten track through the brush
and brambles, to the edge of the open place which had been heaped
with sawdust from the steam-mill.
Just as they broke cover a vivid flash of lightning cleaved the
black cloud that had almost reached the zenith by now, and the
deep rumble of thunder changed to a sharp chatter; then followed
a second flash and a deafening crash.
"Oh, Tom!" gasped Nan, as she clung to him.
"The flash you see'll never hit you, Nan," drawled Tom, trying to
be comforting. "Remember that."
"It isn't so much the lightning I fear as it is the thunder,"
murmured Nan, in the intermission. "It just so-o-ounds as though
the whole house was coming down."
"Ho!" cried Tom. "No house here, Nan."
The thunder roared again. A light patter on the leaves and
ground announced the first drops of the storm.
"Which tree was it you saw smoking?" asked the young fellow.
Nan looked around to find the tall, broken-topped tree. A murmur
that had been rising in the distance suddenly grew to a sweeping
roar. The trees bent before the blast. Particles of sawdust
stung their faces. The horses snorted and sprang ahead. Tom had
difficulty in quieting them.
Then the tempest swooped upon them in earnest.
BUFFETED BY THE ELEMENTS
Nan knew she had never seen it rain so hard before. The falling
water was like a drop-curtain, swept across the stage of the open
tract of sawdust. In a few minutes they were saturated to the
skin. Nan could not have been any wetter if she had gone in
"Oh!" she gasped into Tom's ear. "It is the deluge!"
"Never was, but one rain 't didn't clear up yet," he returned,
with difficulty, for his big body was sheltering Nan in part, and
he was facing the blast.
"I know. That's this one," she agreed. "But, it's awful."
"Say! Can you point out that tree that smoked?" asked Tom.
"Goodness! It can't be smoking now," gasped Nan, stifled with
rain and laughter. "This storm would put out Vesuvius."
"Don't know him," retorted her cousin. "But it'd put most
anybody out, I allow. Still, fire isn't so easy to quench.
Where's the tree?"
"I can't see it, Tom," declared Nan, with her eyes tightly
closed. She really thought he was too stubborn. Of course, if
there had been any fire in that tree-top, this rain would put it
out in about ten seconds. So Nan believed.
"Look again, Nan," urged her cousin. "This is no funning. If
there's fire in this swamp "
"Goodness, gracious!" snapped Nan. "What a fuss-budget you are
to be sure, Tom. If there was a fire, this rain would smother
it. Oh! Did it ever pelt one so before?"
Fortunately the rain was warm, and she was not much discomforted
by being wet. Tom still clung to the idea that she had started
in his slow mind.
"Fire's no funning, I tell you," he growled. "Sometimes it
smoulders for days and days, and weeks and weeks; then it bursts
out like a hurricane."
"But the rain"
This sawdust is mighty hard-packed, and feet deep," interrupted
Tom. "The fire might be deep down "
"Why, Tom! How ridiculously you talk!" cried the girl. "Didn't
I tell you I saw the smoke coming out of the top of a tree? Fire
couldn't be deep down in the sawdust and the smoke come out of
the tree top."
"Couldn't, heh?" returned Tom. "Dead tree, wasn't it?"
"Hollow, too, of course?"
"I don't know."
"Might be hollow clear through its length," Tom explained
seriously. "The butt might be all rotted out. Just a tough
shell of a tree standing there, and 'twould be a fine chimney if
the fire was smouldering down at its old roots."
"Oh, Tom! I never thought of such a thing," gasped Nan.
"And you don't see the tree now?"
"Let me look! Let me look!" cried Nan, conscience-stricken.
In spite of the beating rain and wind she got to her knees, still
clinging to her big cousin, and then stood upon the broad tongue
of the wagon. The horses stood still with their heads down,
bearing the buffeting of the storm with the usual patience of
A sheer wall of water seemed to separate them from every object
out upon the open land. Behind them the bulk of the forest
loomed as another barrier. Nan had really never believed that
rain could fall so hard. It almost took her breath.
Moreover, what Tom said about the smoking tree began to trouble
the girl. She thought of the fire at Pale Lick, of which she had
received hints from several people. That awful conflagration, in
which she believed two children belonging to her uncle and aunt
had lost their lives, had started in the sawdust.
Suddenly she cried aloud and seized Tom more tightly.
"Cracky! Don't choke a fellow!" he coughed.
"I think I see it."
"The tree that smoked?" asked her cousin.
For the moment it seemed as though the downpour lightened.
Veiled by the still falling water a straight stick rose high in
the air ahead of them. Tom chirruped to the horses and made
them, though unwilling, go forward.
They dragged the heavy cart unevenly. Through the heavy downpour
the trail was hard to follow, and once in a while a rear wheel
bumped over a stump, and Nan was glad to drop down upon the
tongue again, and cling more tightly than ever to her cousin's
"Sure that's it?" queried Tom, craning his neck to look up into
the tall, straight tree.
"I, I'm almost sure," stammered Nan.
"I, don't, see, any, smoke," drawled Tom, with his head still
The rain had almost ceased, an intermission which would not be
of long duration. Nan saw that her cousin's prophecy had been
true; the ground actually smoked after the downpour. The sun-
heated sawdust steamed furiously. They seemed to be crossing a
heated cauldron. Clouds of steam rose all about the timber cart.
"Why, Tommy!" Nan choked. "It does seem as though there must be
fire under this sawdust now."
Tom brought his own gaze down from the empty tree-top with a
jerk. "Hoo!" he shouted, and leaned forward suddenly to flick
his off horse with the whiplash. Just then the rear wheel on
that side slumped down into what seemed a veritable volcano.
Flame and smoke spurted out around the broad wheel. Nan
screamed. The wind suddenly swooped down upon them, and a ball
of fire, flaming sawdust was shot into the air and was
tossed twenty feet by a puff of wind.
"We're over an oven!" gasped Tom, and laid the whip solidly
across the backs of the frightened horses.
They plunged. Another geyser of fire and smoke spurted from the
hole into which the rear wheel had slumped. Again and again the
big horses flung themselves into the collars in an endeavor to
get the wheel out.
"Oh, Tommy!" cried Nan. "We'll be burned up!"
"No you won't," declared her cousin, leaping down. "Get off and
"Do as I say!" commanded Tom. "Run!"
"Where, where'll I run to?" gasped the girl, leaping off the
tongue, too, and away from the horses' heels.
"To the road. Get toward home!" cried Tom, running around to the
rear of the timber cart.
"And leave you here?" cried Nan. "I guess not, Mr. Tom!" she
But he did not hear that. He had seized his axe and was striding
toward the edge of the forest. For a moment Nan feared that Tom
was running away as he advised her to do. But that would not be
like Tom Sherwood!
At the edge of the forest he laid the axe to the root of a
sapling about four inches through at the butt. Three strokes,
and the tree was down. In a minute he had lopped off the
branches for twenty feet, then removed the top with a single
As he turned, dragging the pole with him, up sprang the fire
again from the hollow into which the wheel of the wagon had sunk.
It was a smoking furnace down there, and soon the felloe and
spokes would be injured by the flames and heat. Sparks flew on
the wings of the wind from out of the mouth of the hole. Some of
them scattered about the horses and they plunged again,
It seemed to Nan impossible after the recent cloudburst that the
fire could find anything to feed upon. But underneath the packed
surface of the sawdust, the heat of summer had been drying out
the moisture for weeks. And the fire had been smouldering for a
long time. Perhaps for yards and yards around, the interior of
the sawdust heap was a glowing furnace.
Nan would not run away and Tom did not see her. As he came
plunging back to the stalled wagon, suddenly his foot slumped
into the yielding sawdust and he fell upon his face. He cried
out with surprise or pain. Nan, horrified, saw the flames and
smoke shooting out of the hole into which her cousin had stepped.
For the moment the girl felt as if her heart had stopped beating.
"Oh, Tom! Oh, Tom!" she shrieked, and sprang toward him.
Tom was struggling to get up. His right leg had gone into the
yielding mass up to his hip, and despite his struggles he could
not get it out. A long yellow flame shot out of the hole and
almost licked his face. It, indeed, scorched his hair on one
side of his head.
But Nan did not scream again. She needed her breath, all that
she could get, for a more practical purpose. Her cousin waved
her back feebly, and tried to tell her to avoid the fire.
Nan rushed in, got behind him, and seized her cousin under the
arms. To lift him seemed a giant's task; but nevertheless she
OLD TOBY IN TROUBLE
The squealing and plunging of the horses, the rattling of their
chains, the shrieking of the wind, the reverberating cracks of
thunder made a deafening chorus in Nan's ears. She could
scarcely hear what the imperiled Tom shouted to her. Finally she
"Not that way! Pull sideways!"
He beat his hands impotently upon the crust of sawdust to the
left. Nan tugged that way. Tom pulled, too, heaving his great
body upward, and scratching and scrambling along the sawdust with
fingers spread like claws. His right leg came out of the hole,
and just then the rain descended torrentially again.
The flames from this opening in the roof of the furnace were
beaten down. Tom got to his feet, shaking and panting. He
hobbled painfully when he walked.
But in a moment he seized upon the pole he had dropped and made
for the smoking timber cart. The terrified horses tried again
and again to break away; but the chain harnesses were too strong;
nor did the mired wheel budge.
"Oh, Tom! Oh, Tom!" begged Nan. "Let us make the poor horses
free, and run ourselves."
"And lose my wagon?" returned her cousin, grimly. "Not much!"
The rain, which continued to descend with tropical violence,
almost beat Nan to the ground; but Tom Sherwood worked furiously.
He placed the butt of the lever he had cut under the hub of the
great wheel. There was a sound stump at hand to use as a
fulcrum. Tom threw himself upon the end of the lever. Nan ran
to add her small weight to the endeavor. The wheel creaked and
began to rise slowly.
The sawdust was not clinging, it was not like real mire. There
was no suction to hold the wheel down. Merely the crust had
broken in and the wheel had encountered an impediment of a sound
tree root in front of it so that, when the horses tugged, the
tire had come against the root and dragged back the team.
Out poured the flames and smoke again, the flames hissing as they
were quenched by the falling water. Higher, higher rose the cart
wheel. Nan, who was behind her cousin, saw his neck and ears
turn almost purple from the strain he put in the effort to
dislodge the wheel. Up, up it came, and then-----
"Gid-ap! 'Ap, boys! Yah! Gid-ap!"
The horses strained. The yoke chains rattled. Tom gasped to
"Take my whip! Quick! Let 'em have it!"
The girl had always thought the drover's whip Tom used a very
cruel implement, and she wished he did not use it. But she knew
now that it was necessary. She leaped for the whip which Tom had
thrown down and showed that she knew its use.
The lash hissed and cracked over the horses' backs. Tom voiced
one last, ringing shout. The cart wheel rose up, the horses
leaped forward, and the big timber cart was out of its plight.
Flames and smoke poured out of the hole again. The rain dashing
upon and into the aperture could not entirely quell the stronger
element. But the wagon was safe, and so, too, were the two
Tom was rather painfully burned and Nan began to cry about it.
"Oh! Oh! You poor, poor dear!" she sobbed. "It must smart you
"Don't worry about me," he answered. "Get aboard. Let's get out
"Are you going home?"
"Bet you!" declared Tom. "Why, after this rain stops, this whole
blamed place may be in flames. Must warn folks and get out the
"But the rain will put out the fire, Tom," said Nan, who could
not understand even now the fierce power of a conflagration of
"Look there!" yelled Tom, suddenly glancing back over her head as
she sat behind him on the wagon tongue.
With a roar like an exploding boiler, the flames leaped up the
heart of the hollow tree. The bursted crust of the sawdust heap
had given free ingress to the wind, and a draught being started,
it sucked the flames directly up the tall chimney the tree made.
The fire burst from the broken top. The flames met the falling
rain as though they were unquenchable. Indeed the clouds were
scattering, and second by second the downfall was decreasing.
The tempest of rain was almost over; but the wind remained to fan
the flames that had now broken cover in several spots, as well as
through the tall and hollow tree.
Tom hastened his team toward the main road that passed through
the tamarack swamp. At one end of it was Pine Camp; in the other
direction, after passing the knoll on which the Vanderwillers
lived, the roadway came out upon a more traveled road to the
forks and the railroad.
Pine Camp was the nearest place where help could be secured to
beat down the fire, if, indeed, this were at all possible.
There was a telephone line there which, in a roundabout way,
could be made to carry the news of the forest fire to all the
settlements in the Big Woods and along the railroad line.
But Nan seized Tom's arm and shook it to call his attention as
the horses neared the road.
"Tom! For goodness' sake!" she gasped.
"What's the matter now?" her cousin demanded, rather sharply, for
his burns were painful.
"Toby, the Vanderwillers! What will become of them?"
"What d'you mean?" asked Tom, aghast.
"That poor cripple! They can't get away, he and his
grandmother. Perhaps Toby hasn't come home yet "
"And the wind's that way," Tom interrupted.
It was indeed. The storm had come up from the west and the wind
was still blowing almost directly into the east. A sheet of
flame flew from the top of the old dead tree even as the boy
spoke, and was carried toward the thick forest. It did not reach
it, and as the blazing brand fell it was quenched on the wet
surface of the sawdust.
Nevertheless, the fire was spreading under the crust and soon the
few other dead trees left standing on the tract would burst into
flame. As they looked, the fire burst out at the foot of the
tree and began to send long tongues of flame licking up the
The effect of the drenching rain would soon be gone and the fire
would secure great headway.
"Those poor folks are right in the track of the fire, I allow,"
admitted Tom. "I wonder if he's got a good wide fire strip
"Oh! I know what you mean," Nan cried. "You mean all around the
edge of his farm where it meets the woods?"
"Yes. A ploughed strip may save his buildings. Fire can't
easily cross ploughed ground. Only, if these woods get really
ablaze, the fire will jump half a mile!"
"Oh no, Tom! You don't mean that?"
"Yes, I do," said her cousin, gloomily. "Tobe's in a bad place.
You don't know what a forest fire means, nor the damage it does,
Nannie. I'm right troubled by old Tobe's case."
"But there's no danger for Pine Camp, is there?" asked the girl,
"Plenty of folks there to make a fire-guard. Besides, the wind's
not that way, exactly opposite. And she's not likely to switch
around so soon, neither. I, don't, know"
"The folks at home ought to know about it," Nan interrupted.
"They'll know it, come dark," Tom said briefly. "They'll be
looking for you and they'll see the blaze. Why! After dark that
old dead tree will look like a lighthouse for miles 'n' miles!"
"I suppose it will," agreed Nan. "But I do want to get home,
"Maybe the storm's not over," said her cousin, cocking an eye
towards the clouded heavens. "If it sets in for a long rain (and
one's due about this time according to the Farmer's Almanac) it
would keep the fire down, put it out entirely, maybe. But we
Nan sighed and patted his shoulder. "I know it's our duty to go
to the island, Tommy. You're a conscientious old thing. Drive
Tom clucked to the horses. He steered them into the roadway, but
headed away from home. Another boy with the pain he was bearing
would not have thought of the old lumberman and his family. They
were the only people likely to be in immediate danger from the
fire if it spread. The cousins might easily reach the
Vanderwiller's island, warn them of the fire, and return to town
before it got very late, or before the fire crossed the wood-
They rumbled along, soon striking the corduroy road, having the
thick forest on either hand again. The ditches were running bank
full. Over a quagmire the logs, held down by cross timbers
spiked to the sleepers, shook under the wheels, and the water
spurted up through the interstices as the horses put down their
"An awful lot of water fell," Tom said soberly.
"Goodness! The swamp is full," agreed Nan.
"We may have some trouble in reaching Toby's place," the boy
added. "But maybe,"
He halted in his speech, and the next instant pulled the horses
down to a willing stop. "Hark-a-that!" whispered Tom.
"Can it be anybody crying? Maybe it's a wildcat," said Nan, with
a vivid remembrance of her adventure in the snow that she had
never yet told to any member of the family.
"It's somebody shouting, all right," observed Tom. "Up ahead a
He hurried the horses on, and they slopped through the water
which, in places, flowed over the road, while in others it
actually lifted the logs from their foundation and threatened to
spoil the roadway entirely.
Again and again they heard the faint cry, a man's voice. Tom
stood up and sent a loud cry across the swamp in answer:
"We're coming! Hold on!
"Don't know what's the matter with him," he remarked, dropping
down beside Nan again, and stirring the horses to a faster pace.
"S'pose he's got into a mud-hold, team and all, maybe."
"Oh, Tom! Maybe he'll be sucked right down into this awful mud."
"Not likely. There aren't many quicksands, or the like,
hereabout. Never heard tell of 'em, if there are. Old Tobe lost
a cow once in some slough "
They came to a small opening in the forest just then. Here a
great tree had been uprooted by the wind and leaned precariously
over a quagmire beside the roadway. Fortunately only some of the
lower branches touched the road line and Tom could get his team
Then the person in trouble came into sight. Nan and her cousin
saw him immediately. He was in the middle of the shaking morass
waist deep in the mire, and clinging to one of the small hanging
limbs of the uprooted tree.
"Hickory splits!" ejaculated Tom, stopping the team. "It's old
Tobe himself! Did you ever see the like!"
THE GIRL IN THE HOLLOW TREE
Just why old Toby Vanderwiller was clinging to that branch and
did not try to wade ashore, neither Nan nor Tom could understand.
But one thing was plain: the old lumberman thought himself in
danger, and every once in a while he gave out a shout for help.
But his voice was growing weak.
"Hey, Tobe!" yelled Tom. "Why don't you wade ashore?"
"There ye be, at last, hey?" snarled the old man, who was
evidently just as angry as he could be. "Thought ye'd never
come. Hearn them horses rattling their chains, must ha' been for
"That's stretching it some," laughed Tom. "That tree hasn't been
toppled over an hour."
"Huh! Ye can't tell me nothin' 'beout that!" declared Toby. "I
was right here when it happened."
"Goodness1" gasped Nan.
"Yep. And lemme tell ye, I only jest 'scaped being knocked down
when she fell."
"My!" murmured Nan again.
"That's how I got inter this muck hole," growled the old
lumberman. "I jumped ter dodge the tree, and landed here."
"Why don't you wade ashore?" demanded Tom again, preparing in a
leisurely manner to cast the old man the end of a line he had
coiled on the timber cart.
"Yah!" snarled Toby. "Why don't Miz' Smith keep pigs? Don't ax
fool questions, Tommy, but gimme holt on that rope. I'm afraid
ter let go the branch, for I'll sink, and if I try ter pull
myself up by it, the whole blamed tree'll come down onter me. Ye
see how it's toppling?"
It was true that the fallen tree was in a very precarious
position. When Toby stirred at all, the small weight he rested